Sunday, April 29, 2012

Breathing In

A couple weeks ago, Mr. W had to cut down one of the orange trees in our backyard that had been struggling for over a year. It was failing to produce leaves on a lot of its limbs; losing strips of its bark. Although it somehow managed to yield two oranges this spring (straight from its trunk), we knew it wasn't going to make a full recovery.

When he began to dig up the main stump, Mr. W discovered that the trunk was rotted through.

Apparently when he and Sweet Pete had re-landscaped the backyard many years ago, they accidentally buried the tree too deep. I didn't know this until Mr. W explained it, but trees have a transition area between their roots and trunk that is very fragile. If this root flare is buried or over-mulched, it will deprive the tree of oxygen and cause it to suffocate.

It made me think about what happens to people when too much gets piled up against us. When the dirt of work and life stress; emotional turmoil; loss; change; illness—all the things that can build up around us—come at once, we usually end up feeling rotten, too. We can't produce like we normally do. We can't breathe. We've got to cause our own personal earthquakes to shake away the soil and get the air back in our lungs.

I'm trying to do this now, as I have a nasty cold and haven't exactly been feeling rot-free.

For me, the way to re-oxygenate usually starts with getting fresh air. Letting the sun hit my root flare and the breeze dry up my dampened equilibrium.

Today Mr. W and I went on a nice hike near the Hollywood sign. Then I spent time looking for signs in my own backyard—signs of hope, new growth, promise of good things to come.

Here's what I found:

Little strawberries almost ready to be picked.  

The beginnings of our first crop of avocados on the tree we planted in autumn 2010. 

 Baby grapes. Not sure the varietal but very glad to see them in our yard.

A teeny artichoke hiding among the massive prehistoric-looking leaves of the plant.

 Boxwood basil - a new discovery for us this year. We planted small clumps of it,
along with several tomato varieties, where the old orange tree used to stand.

 This zucchini has probably already grown 10x the size it was when we first put it into the ground. 

Snap pea blooms popping up in between corn shoots along our back wall. 

I can only imagine what it will be like when we live in Santa Ynez one day and walking outside to get some air can include a quick stroll through the vineyard and a visit to the chicken coop. Those exhales are going to feel incredible. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

For the Love of Pete

Last Thursday, Mr. W and I lost one of our most cherished friends. If you read my old blog, you'll remember him as "Dirty Painter," a handle I gave him when he harassed me for not making him a star character in my posts. I named him Dirty Painter because he was a phenomenal artist who loved to create pictures of scantily-clad girls. We have one of his masterpieces hanging in our living room and just about everyone who ever visits compliments us on how amazing it is.

Dirty Painter's real name is Pete.

He was a friend of Mr. W's for close to fifteen years; roommate for five. I knew him for four and a half. He was the kind of guy that guys wanted to be like and girls wanted to be with. This man had charm and charisma like nobody's business. His personality was so big and bold, I don't think there are enough words in the English language to properly describe it. His energy—and huge smile—filled up the room the moment he walked in, and that was before he started entertaining you with hilarious stories and reenactments. "Whapow!" is one of his famous story-telling words that could describe anything from the sound of a friend's butt hitting the snowboarding slope to the pop of his imaginary gun as he threatened to shoot squirrels who were disrupting his garden.

I remember when I first met Pete, I felt like I was getting to see a whole other side of Mr. W that I didn't know about. One that included massive laughter and crazy hijinks. Pete was always up for a good time and always working on some sort of major feat—everything from making the perfect dessert to dominating in an ironman triathlon. I have so many memories of him killing it on the Rock Band drum kit when we were all here goofing off on a Saturday night, and making phenomenal pancakes for us to eat with him and his sweet, precious lady love Southern Belle.

In 2009, he and Southern Belle talked Mr. W and I into doing the Muddy Buddy race with them the day after Halloween. Of course they made it across the finish line far before we did, but were there cheering us on as we crawled through the mud pit.

That was one of the greatest things about Pete—he was a total warrior on his own, but also a huge team player. You knew he had your back at every second and would do anything you asked of him. When Mr. W was in London and the water heater pipe burst here, he was the one who came to my rescue.

Last spring, we were lucky enough to have Pete as a groomsman in our wedding and that boy tore up the dance floor more than just about anyone else. Some of the very best pictures I have from our reception are of Pete busting his unmatchable moves. At the end of the night, he was on his way out the door when the song Xanadu came on and (after I went screaming after him) he came back onto the dance floor to cut one final rug with me. I love that boy for appreciating Xanadu and disco.

I can't quantify the shock and heartache we felt last week when we'd heard we lost him. It still doesn't seem possible. Energy like that doesn't seem like it should be able to be extinguished, ever.

Over the weekend, Mr. W and I went to a breadmaking class we'd book after Christmas and as the chef was trying to do something she said, "Oh for the love of Pete."


That statement rang in my ears the rest of the day and has been sitting there since. Oh for the love of Pete. All for the love of Pete. So much of it out there for him. So many people adoring and missing him. The pain of his passing is directly proportional to the immense joy he gave us all through the pleasure of knowing him. That costume he's wearing above could have been his daily uniform. The boy was a warrior at heart. God picked the strongest man to join his angels.

Friday, April 20, 2012


It never seems real when someone you know dies. When the news is delivered, you find yourself asking What? What? What? as though you've heard the messenger wrong. The disbelief overrules any faith you had in your ability to listen.

No matter how you turn the idea over in your head, you cannot make it sink in. It doesn't seem possible. You feel like you are dreaming and that any moment, you'll awake. Relieved.

You walk outside to get the mail and wonder how it is that the sun can still be in the sky, the breeze still exhaling through the trees. How is it possible when nothing is the same anymore? There should be less light. One less laugh in the world should dim all the brightest stars. The entire earth should react to the loss.

It is strange that anything—anything at all—can continue on its normal trajectory.

Maybe there should be comfort in the fact that we keep turning the same orbit even when change and pain befall us. But it just doesn't feel right. It feels like all should go dark and silent. At least for some time.

Life is a precious gift that can be far shorter than ever deserved or thought. Squeeze your loved ones tight every day. Feel that breeze and the warmth of that sun. Soak up every second of it and spread your love over people like honey.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gurgle and Hiss

Last night Mr. W went out to a fancy dinner with one of the vendors from his recent film and as I was dozing on the couch in his absence, I heard a peculiar sound. It was sort of like a hissing, gurgling noise.

At first I assumed it was the cats snoring. I ignored it and continued to nap on our lovely new sectional.

But then I went to get some water in the kitchen and heard the strange sound again.

I flipped on the patio light to see if there was some sort of rabid creature outside the back door. Then I turned the faucet on and off to flush the pipes in case it was some strange plumbing issue.

But the mysterious sound continued.

Finally I noticed a large bubble coming from the side of Mr. W's jar of bread dough. It had bubbled up and was eeking out the closed lid. Although I opened it and poured some down the drain, by this morning it looked like this:

Which is very coincidental because Mr. W also overflowed last night. Right into the Porcelain God, thanks to too much expensive wine with his friends.

I just love it when parallels pop up in life. Especially when I'm not responsible for either of them!

Hopefully both culprits are done spewing for the day.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Three Dozen

Today I turned three dozen. It's kind of fun to think of your age as a few sheets of cookies or cartons of eggs. And we only get to turn a dozen every 12 years, so I think that makes these birthdays kind of special.

I felt awfully lucky when Mr. W suggested (after making me bacon...mmm...and French toast for breakfast) that we go look at new couches during lunchtime. I LOVE furniture shopping. Even if I'm not buying anything. Going into home design stores is like going into candy factories (or wineries) for me. I get giddy.

Anyway, we've been cruising couch websites because of this:

And this:

And sometimes this:

Despite the fact that Mr. W has owned his couch for nine years and that some of our friends won't even come over to watch movies at our house because the couch is so tiny, the thing that finally pushed him over the purchase edge was the fact that he was getting too crowded by the cats.

So today he bought this (color has been fudged in Photoshop because the picture on the website was bright magenta):

What he doesn't realize is that even with all the space the new couch offers, the cats will likely still be right on top of us.

In the midst of our shopping, we stopped at Culver City's famous Tito's Tacos for lunch. I texted an old Yahoo! coworker to tell him I was there (it's his favorite) and he happened to be on his way there at the exact same time, so he joined us for lunch. Birthday luck.

As I sat munching on chips and salsa with post-couchal glow, I felt so happy to be having such a simple, yet wonderful birthday.

Not all the birthdays were like this. I can think of one that included sobbing in a bathtub in Carmel and another that involved a screaming match and throwing a certain present at a certain belligerent boyfriend. Those were all years before I met Mr. W, of course. Three cheers and four deep breaths for being drama-free at 36. Whew!

But something else is at play this birthday. A sort of calm mixed with excitement at the sense of possibility and openness I feel in my life right now. Last year's birthday was great, but I definitely felt stuck in a rut. Thirty-five felt heavy and confining. Likely because I was tied to the same job I'd been in for five years prior. I launched an Etsy store in an effort to spice things up.

Well, this year I wasn't exactly looking to spice things up—more so follow that sense of possibility toward something I'm really passionate about: dating and relationships. So I finally finished the book I've been tinkering with for 4 years, I self-published it and I started a new website to go with it.

Introducing The Path to

I'm excited to dive into this world and hopefully make contact with some single gals (and guys!) who are anxious to learn more about dating and manifesting.

Now that I finally have the book and the site done, I'll finally be able to get back to reading all your blogs more frequently!

That's another thing that makes this birthday happy!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Rightness in the Mundane

I don't know if he always did it, but for as long as I can remember, my dad wore the same "uniform" to work almost every day. Jeans and a button-up shirt with a white t-shirt underneath. This meant that my mom seemed to be folding white undershirts every single time she did laundry. I can clearly remember helping her fold while we sat on the floor of the family room watching something like The Cosby Show or Family Ties. She never complained that my dad wasn't there folding his own t-shirts, she just took care of what needed to get done and then moved on to the next thing.

I thought of my mom this past week when I found myself creating a stack of Mr. W's undershirts. It was the middle of the day; he was at work; I could hear Barefoot Contessa making something for Jeffrey in the other room. I felt like a strangely merry housewife.

I didn't feel resentful that I was helping with his laundry—something that's become a pretty regular task since he's been working such long hours. I felt almost appreciative. Don't barf, I know it sounds strange and a bit like something a Stepford Wife would say. 

But in that moment, I recognized what might be a similarity between our relationship and my parents': a mutual desire to take care of each other and help the other one out, without expectation. That's how it worked in my house growing up. I don't ever remember my mom nagging my dad to do things or getting mad when she had to do things for him. And the same went for him. They had established a beautifully choreographed dance where they gave and received in unspoken harmony, paying back and paying forward year after year after year. They celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary in February, by the way.

The gratitude I felt while folding that stack of Hanes came from knowing Mr. W and I might hit a marker like that one day if we keep up the dance like my parents have done. And it came just from knowing that if those were my shirts in the dryer, he'd fold them for me, too. He's done it many times.

He wrapped his movie last Thursday, so (for awhile at least) he'll be home with me during the day now. I will still fold his shirts if he needs me to. And although I've given him a few honey-do's to tackle during his hiatus, I know he'd probably take care of stuff all on his own.

We might learn some new give-and-take dance steps being here together every single day. Hopefully we'll both be able to continue finding gratefulness as we go about our little lives.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What We're Making: WINE, Baby!

Last year for Mr. W's birthday, I bought him a guide to wine-making and promised that once he had chosen the best kit, I'd pay for part of it and/or the grape juice so he could finally give home wine-making a whirl. For my birthday, he bought me a toilet. But that's another story.

He finally got around to ordering the kit this past fall, and in October began the process of making 30 bottles of home-brewed Merlot. We chose Merlot because we thought it might be easier than a bigger red or pretty much any white. Here's what the kit looked like after we unpacked it:


Basic contents are: A bucket to mix the grape juice with various additives. A glass jug that holds the wine for aging - and bottle brush for cleaning it. Some sort of siphoning squirty thing for transferring wine from "barrel" (jug) to bottle. A corking tool and a bunch of corks.

After sterilizing everything with a special solution, Mr. W set off on his Mad Scientist adventure.

Grape juice was added to the bucket:

And a hydrometer was used to test its gravity. No idea why. Maybe so when we drank it, we wouldn't float away like that one burping scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Clearly, Mr. W should be writing this post...

Once gravitational pull (I just made that up) was established, the wine was poured back into the bucket where it was mixed with additives and yeast to help mimic the flavor and chemical reactions that occur when wine is in a barrel. As usual, the cat was extremely helpful during this entire process.

For about 8 days after this step, that bucket sat in Mr. W's bathtub doing its thing. He had to retest the gravity (which I just found out measures alcohol content) and temperature several times to determine when fermentation had stopped. At that point, the wine was ready to get "racked"—i.e. put into the glass jug to age.

In this jug, nestled among the remote-controlled helicopters, dust bunnies, and landscaping books in our guest room, the wine aged until this past Sunday.

Then it was time to be bottled.

We carefully sterilized 36 bottles in the sink, 32 of which we ended up filling with wine.

Can you tell Mr. W just got a haircut the day before? I'll tell him you said you liked it.

Once the bottles were sterilized, the siphony sucker thing was used to transfer wine from the jug into each bottle.

I'll be honest: part of me was totally jonesing to cut those bottles up and turn them into candle hurricanes for my Etsy store. But we have to reuse them when we do this again, so I will refrain...

After all the bottles were filled, it was time to cork. We realized after doing a few on the countertop that it was about a hundred times easier to force the corks in while kneeling on the floor.

We left one bottle uncorked and drank part of it with our dinner. I have to say, it was pretty good considering it was our first time. And all this only cost about $13 a bottle, which isn't horrible—especially since we can use the equipment again.

For the next batch, we think we'll try making chardonnay. I'm hoping this is just the beginning of a long career of wine making together.